Sources: McQueary abused as a boy

Updated: March 4, 2014, 2:02 PM ET
By Don Van Natta Jr. | ESPN.com

A former assistant football coach and key prosecution witness in the upcoming conspiracy trial of three former Penn State leaders accused of covering up Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse crimes told his players during a November 2011 closed-door meeting that he, too, was sexually abused as a boy, sources told ESPN The Magazine.

Mike McQueary confided to a dozen Nittany Lions players that he could relate to the helplessness of the young boy he had seen with Sandusky in a campus shower a decade earlier because he was abused as a boy, according to two players who attended the meeting and four others with knowledge of it. McQueary did not tell the players who had abused him or when or how long the abuse had occurred, the sources said.

Mike McQueary/Joe Paterno
AP Photo/Gene PuskarFrom 2011: Mike McQueary listens to his former boss, Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

McQueary's meeting with Penn State receivers was held on Nov. 9, 2011, just days after prosecutors revealed, in a 23-page presentment, that McQueary had seen Sandusky and a young boy engaged in "anal intercourse" in the Lasch Football Building on campus a decade earlier.

The revelation is included in a profile of McQueary published in the upcoming edition of ESPN The Magazine.

McQueary, 39, declined to comment for the magazine story, except to say that he still reveres his mentor, former coach Joe Paterno, who was fired that day in November 2011 and died in January 2012 at the age of 85.

"I love that man more than you can ever possibly say," McQueary told The Mag. "He's an unbelievable man. He did unbelievable things. He handled this thing in the best way he could. Was it foolproof or perfect? No. But I didn't handle this in a foolproof or perfect way either. I am loyal to him to this day. I absolutely love him."

Although he hasn't confirmed it outside the locker-room meeting, McQueary told players he was a victim of abuse at a time when his decision to leave the locker room without stopping Sandusky was being criticized in State College and beyond, including by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

"It made it even more personal for him," one of the players said.

Prosecutors are expected to call McQueary to testify later this year at the criminal trial of former Penn State president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz, who are charged with crimes ranging from conspiracy to failure to report suspected abuse. If convicted, each would face a maximum of 39 years in prison.

All three have pleaded not guilty and say they did not hear from McQueary, either directly or indirectly, in 2001 that he had seen Sandusky sexually assault a boy in the shower.

Meanwhile, McQueary has filed a $4 million whistleblower lawsuit against Penn State for expected lost wages after his contract wasn't renewed in the summer of 2012. In his complaint, McQueary says he suffered "irreparable harm to his ability to earn a living" because Penn State discriminated against him for providing truthful testimony in the Sandusky case and at the preliminary hearing for Curley and Schultz and because he'll be a key prosecution witness at the trial of Spanier, Curley and Schultz.

On June 22, 2012, a jury convicted Sandusky, a retired Penn State defensive coordinator, of 45 of 48 counts of child sexual abuse, and he will serve at least 30 years in state prison. The jury found Sandusky not guilty of three counts, including the alleged rape of "Victim 2," the boy McQueary said he saw in the shower with Sandusky.

As a longtime Penn State assistant and recruiting director, McQueary once had every expectation he would become a Division I head coach. Now he is unemployed and living at his parents' house in State College. He is separated from his wife, Barbara, who lives in Virginia with their 4-year-old daughter.

Last summer, Savannah State approached McQueary about taking its quarterbacks coaching job, but members of the administration balked at hiring McQueary. He is resigned to the possibility he may never coach again, people close to him say. He has been looking for work in sales and looks forward to moving away for good from State College, where he spent most of his youth and was a star high school quarterback before playing at Penn State.

McQueary's wife, his two lawyers and his older brother, John II, also declined to comment for The Mag's story. By phone, McQueary's father, John Sr., said, "I'd like to speak to you, but I don't think it's in my best interests. I don't think it's in Mike's best interests right now." He added: "We are an unusually close family. We were close before this whole thing happened, but since then we have really circled the wagons."

When McQueary is called by prosecutors to testify at the trial of Spanier, Curley and Schultz, it will be the fifth time under oath that he tells the story of what he says he witnessed in the Lasch Building shower on the evening of Friday, Feb. 9, 2001. Defense lawyers for the three former administrators plan on raising questions about the consistency and veracity of McQueary's previous testimony and, if allowed by the presiding judge, also plan on raising questions about his character.

One area the defense lawyers will likely attempt to focus on is McQueary and gambling. According to several former teammates and people close to McQueary, he gambled while at Penn State, and it continued after he graduated in December 1997. He often played poker and bet on pro and college football with a bookie, the sources say.

One close college friend says he recalls that McQueary, as a junior and backup quarterback, bet on Penn State to cover an 8-point spread against Michigan State at Beaver Stadium in November 1996. The Nittany Lions won 32-29 on a late field goal, and McQueary, who was on the bench, lost his wager, the source said.

When McQueary's gambling debts totaled thousands of dollars, his father paid them, several of McQueary's former teammates said.

A close college friend said he urged McQueary to slow down the pace of his betting.

"It got pretty bad," the friend said. "And it just kept snowballing and snowballing. He was very impulsive."

When the presentment was made public on Nov. 4, 2011, McQueary was reported as seeing Sandusky engaged in "anal intercourse" with a 10-year-old boy in the shower. But in subsequent testimony, McQueary acknowledged he never clearly saw anal intercourse and only assumed it had occurred based on several quick glances and the sounds he heard.

What McQueary saw and reported in 2001 to Paterno and Penn State's leaders compared to his five statements, delivered in varying terms under oath from 2010 to 2013, will be critical parts of the criminal trial of Spanier, Curley and Schultz.

A previously undisclosed email sent by McQueary to authorities demonstrates he had thought the prosecutors' description in the presentment of what he had seen -- and what he reported to Paterno -- was not accurate.

"I cannot say 1,000 percent sure that it was sodomy," McQueary wrote in the email sent to a prosecutor and investigator on Nov. 10, 2011. "I did not see insertion. ... It was sexual and/or way over the line in my opinion, whatever it was."

However, a year earlier, McQueary wrote in a written statement that he was "certain that sexual acts/the young boy being sodomized was occurring."

In another previously undisclosed matter, The Mag found that one grand juror who heard McQueary testify said he doubted his credibility. The grand juror, Stan Bolton, a 53-year-old employee of The Home Depot in York, Pa., now says he was skeptical of McQueary's claim that Sandusky engaged in a sex act with the boy because McQueary told grand jurors that he didn't see penetration.

"This planted a seed with me. Either you saw it or you didn't," said Bolton, who was one of 23 grand jurors. The prosecutors "kind of glossed over it and moved on to who [McQueary] told, which started the whole Joe Paterno thing."

When the presentment charging Sandusky, Curley and Schultz was released, it was written by the 33rd grand jury. In that document, prosecutors said McQueary, identified only as a graduate assistant, was found by the grand jury to be "extremely credible." However, the 33rd grand jury never heard McQueary testify. An earlier grand jury, the 30th, heard McQueary testify on Dec. 16, 2010. Bolton was a member of that grand jury.

The Mag story also reports new details about "Victim 2," the boy, now in his mid-20s, who was in the shower when McQueary witnessed Sandusky's alleged assault. A week after the presentment was released, a young man in his mid-20s identified himself as "Victim 2" to Joseph L. Amendola, the defense lawyer for Sandusky. In a wide-ranging interview on Nov. 9, 2011, in Amendola's State College law office, the young man, accompanied by his mother and brother, told Amendola and his investigator that at the time of the shower incident he was 14, not 10 or 11, as McQueary estimated.

According to a five-page memo detailing the interview written by Curtis Everhart, Amendola's investigator, the man said the incident happened on Feb. 9, 2001, not on March 1, 2002, as prosecutors had written in their presentment. The man said "this particular night is very clear in my mind," the memo states. In the shower after a workout, the man said he and Sandusky "were slapping towels at each other, trying to sting each other. I would slap the walls and would slide on the shower floor, which I am sure you could have heard from the wooden locker." The man said he recalled hearing a locker slam but never saw the person who slammed it. "The grand jury report says Coach McQueary said he observed Jerry and I engaged in sexual activity," the man said. "Nothing occurred that night in the shower."

Amendola thought Victim 2 would provide a break as he began preparing Sandusky's defense. But two weeks later, Amendola said he ran into a local lawyer at the Centre County Courthouse who told him the young man who had identified himself as Victim 2 had in fact been a victim of Sandusky and intended to sue Penn State.

"I said, 'What?'" Amendola recalled. "And he says, 'He's one of the worst victims.' I almost fell down. That's not what this young man told me and my investigator."

The young man who identified himself as Victim 2 was not called by prosecutors to testify at Sandusky's trial. He has since struck a multimillion dollar settlement with Penn State, sources say. A Penn State official said there is no interest in settling McQueary's whistleblower lawsuit against the university.

Don Van Natta Jr. | email

Senior writer, ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com

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